We received the following update from SCCC alumnus Martin Novell who has been very busy:

“I am the featured psychotherapist in theOctober, 2012 of Ladies Home Journal, pg. 68. Here’s the link to the story online, “I Want To Travel, He Wants Kids.”
http://t.meredith.ly/GRT8zSF

also, just  FYI:
I started a blog with my partner of 10 years, writer/editor Daina Hulet, on couples and relationships. I think our piece on the two party marriage is useful and current. It’s gotten a nice response.
http://www.thecuratedrelationship.com/index.html

8 Seconds to a Better Marriage is my first video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xunuLRx6Qw ”

Congratulations on all your projects, Martin!

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Check out this article in the UCLA Medicine magazine about the growing evidence that meditating may actually improve the health and function of our brains as we age: Is Meditation Push-ups for the Brain?

This research, along with the findings of other scientists such as Sara Lazar at Harvard is encouraging many in the psychology field to take a look at the important role mindfulness and meditation can play in mental health.  Lazar’s research shows that important cortical areas of the brain are thicker in meditators than non-meditators.  Recent  advances in brain imaging and neuroscience seem to be providing scientific validation to ancient practices.

Many of our counselors at the Southern California Counseling Center practice meditation and we incorporate it into our Best Practice Parenting Program.  Our counselors will receive a training this month from Ron Alexander Ph.D., an expert on mindfulness and psycyhotherapy and author of Wise Mind, Open Mind 

 Los Angeles area organizations such as  InsightLA and the MARC Center at UCLA offer many classes and workshops for people who are interested in developing a meditation practice.

 Clay Crosby, MFT is Assistant Clinical Director of The Southern California Counseling Center and he co-created the Center’s Best Practice Parenting Program with Carol Potter, MFT and Robert Mendelsohn, MFT.  Clay works with highly creative individuals and couples in his private practice in Beverly Hills.    In addition to his interest in the application of Mindful Awareness techniques to psychotherapy, he has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.  www.claycrosbymft.com

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Support for gay marriage is on the rise. Every new survey shows greater tolerance and greater acceptance of the fact that homosexuality is a personally integral and relational truth that warrants equal rights.

With this support, we also see the rise of greater diversity in gay culture depicted by the media. Certainly the suburban gay parent is a fairly recent standard prototype in the collective consciousness that has gained traction from popular fiction, namely Modern Family and The Kids Are All Right, and from real-life celebrity parents like Rosie O’Donnell and Neil Patrick Harris.

The suburban gay parent does much to humanize the prevailing stereotype that depicts lesbians and gay men solely as promiscuous and unstable, propagated just last month by the conservative, religious website LifeSiteNews in response to Newsweek‘s recent cover story on sex addiction: “[H]omosexuals are known for having superficial, short-term relationships and hundreds of lifetime sex partners…” (That’s perhaps the least offensive quote in their homophobic article.)

I have to wonder about the degree to which any so-called “deviant” lifestyle traits displayed by LGBT people are ultimately an inherent psychological reaction to institutionalized homophobia at every level.

Let’s take this trip. First, there’s the closet, this toxic idea that it’s not OK to be gay, compelling LGBT children to hide their truth. Gay kids live in silence for fear of the repercussions of disclosure, which can include rejection, abandonment, and bullying to the point of suicide. Gay bullying is perpetrated by peers, parents, teachers, community leaders, and world leaders.

While many minorities suffer oppression, from disenfranchisement to outright discrimination to persecution, few minorities additionally experience such extreme degrees of intimidated relational repression during formative years as the LGBT community. What effect does this have on people? As a result of this coerced repression, there exists insufficient co-regulation to explore appropriate relational valuing, which is the process of integrating personal reality with authentic expression that results in healthy, intimate relationships.

Instead, an abyss has to be crossed where a child “comes out.” For LGBT people, this is a rite of passage with a wide range of emotions that is experienced mostly in emotional isolation.

The process of coming out results in highly emotive events that border on the traumatic, and these initial experiences have a profound effect on the psyches of LGBT people, especially while brains are still forming in teenage years. Such traumatic, emotionally isolated events can become psychologically idealized, because there is so much personal meaning behind the experience of reaching a positive state of self-acceptance. This ideation is often transposed onto the attending circumstances, which might include conflict, denial, deception, fear, anonymity, and sexual experimentation. This is practically a recipe for an involuntary pattern of sex addiction and/or love addiction to emerge over the long term. To state this clearly: sex and love addiction have little to do with actual pleasure and more to do with unconsciously replaying the emotional features of repressed trauma. The just-released film Shame eloquently underscores this reality.

Coming out is, of course, a long and painful process. In the initial stages, anonymity reflects a crucial and reasonable need for self-preservation for any closeted gay person, whether cruising the Internet or the gay scene. Early casual sex hookups provide not only a sexual release for pent-up stress but also a means of connection with the larger gay community and even sex education through those with shared experiences. As a result, gay sex often becomes synonymous with gay identity.

Most addictions of any nature can be traced back to early childhood trauma. For example, masturbation often becomes a coping mechanism at the onset of puberty, when family power dynamics first start to implode. The release of neurochemicals preceding orgasm numbs painful feelings and creates pleasurable feelings. Seriously, who wouldn’t want pleasurable feelings in place of painful feelings? The problem with any addiction is that it does not get rid of painful feelings. They only become dormant and thus prolonged, sometimes reinforced by shame and grief, over time growing more painful until they are finally processed, either through heroic confrontation or utter chaos.

Most sexual acting out is often an attempt at recreating the original emotive trauma as a means to heal it. Usually the effects of years of denial and compartmentalization have gone unprocessed, despite any appearances to the contrary. Lacking new tools, the trauma merely becomes reinforced and can become a pattern. When this pattern becomes unsatisfying and inescapable, this might be considered an addiction.

One of the roots of sex addiction is an inability to cope with trauma and shame, feelings that LGBT people may struggle with as a community more so than their non-LGBT counterparts. However, gay sex addiction is no different from straight sex addiction.

Still, there can be impenetrable denial on the part of the gay sex addict, who often equates promiscuity with personal empowerment, a self-avowed lifestyle choice that expresses hard-won gay rights. Likewise, sex addiction treatment via professionals or 12-step support can appear as a moralistic judgment against LGBT freedoms rather than what it really is: modeled guidance to greater freedom and choice in relational intimacy and the true individual expression of functional and fulfilling lifelong LGBT values.

Alexandra Katehakis,
M.F.T.

You can see Alex’s original article here at the Huffington Post.

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It’s holiday time, and I thought it would be fun just to share a Holiday story. Though the SCCC is an amazing place, and a serious place for serious problems, I thought it would be fun to contribute some fun lighthearted stores.

When I was about 6 years old, I lived in MI on the end of a cul-de-sac, in the suburbs of the city of Grand Rapids. It was like a little community where all the kids played together and it seemed like all of the parents knew each other. One Christmas Eve, my parents had a little get together. I was allowed to stay up a little later than usual and enjoy the festivities. Well, low and behold, shortly before my bedtime, there was a knock at the door. IT WAS SANTA! When he came in the door, I wanted nothing more than to believe it was the real Santa, but I just couldn’t get my mind to believe it, thinking it was my Grandpa, (Santa was too busy to visit just me, my logical side argued). After a few minutes of talking to the man I believed was my grandfather, in my grandpa walks from the kitchen. Okay, so it’s one of my parent’s friends…but wait, they’re all here! My brain just couldn’t grab a hold of it. Holy Cow!!! Santa is sitting in my living room talking to me, asking me what I want for Christmas! I asked him where Rudolph and the other Reindeer were. He told me they were out in the field. When I looked out the window, I was pretty sure I saw the tiniest red light… Rudolph’s nose! In the end, Santa and I talked for a while, discussed presents and the North Pole, while I kept bringing him cookies and milk.

To this day, I still like to believe that it was really Santa that came into my house this night, and till this day, my parents still claim that it was.

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I was thinking about how long it has been since the GATE training was first offered here at the Center. I remember in 2000 pitching the idea to then Executive Director Marsha Jacobs and the response I received was amazing. The idea I had was not about providing gang statistics or Gangs 101. I wanted to provide a training that allowed for the therapist, counselor or anyone working with this culture to become more aware of the dehumanizing of an entire population which has been systematically socially and financially oppressed. I wished for a clearer understanding of one’s own bias and fear when thinking about working with this population and the influences which inform the way they are present with the client. As a gang member I stand for non-violent solutions to our marginalization and this training is part of that re-humanizing effort that I knew in my heart the Center would get behind. After all they hired me, a well-known gang member who happened to be able to reach the gang culture’s membership in ways that were empowering and validating. I learned this here at the counseling center and I had to customize the therapeutic process to fit those who justifiably distrusted the idea of being mandated to sit with a person to figure out how to not do whatever it is that brought them to be judged by and assessed by those who never had to exist under the heel of racial and social oppression.

So GATE was born. In its first emergence it was Gang Awareness Training “GAT” which was perfect for obvious reasons. We were soon met with the disapproval by the Feds not because of what we were doing but because they already had that name. I remember Denise Smith, the Center’s Administrator coming to me and saying, “Who would have thought you and the Feds would have the same idea for the name of a program?” So it became GREATE, GANG RE-EDUCATION AND TRAINING. This always seemed to be a reach as far as acronyms go. GATE: GANG AWARENESS TRAINING AND EDUCATION lasted for a long time. One day it was brought to my attention that Training and Education seemed to be the same thing. I really didn’t have time for this dilemma so it stayed with that name for years.

GATE: GANGS, A THERAPEUTIC EDUCATION happened one day when a participant in one of the classes asked me why I wasn’t telling them where the gangs are and how they can be identified etc. I guess awareness was in this person’s mind an understanding of knowing the places not to be.

As I prepared for the class which took place on November 5th 2011 I was struck by the number of people who wanted what we were offering. The idea of gangs as a culture is beginning to be recognized by other service providers and even those who are part of the system which continues to marginalize particular communities and persons based on their higher level in relationship to the “suspicion meter.”

The group of people who attended were an amazing mix of therapists and interns, case managers, Program Directors and program staff. One participant came from as far as San Diego. What struck us as a group was the fear-based media that negatively saturates the reputation of those captured in a world that can only respect physical power because other types of power (such as money and education) are not available or realistic to the person’s daily reality. The worst part of this reality is that this reputation has saturated the culture itself and the negative reputation has become internalized.

The 8 hours flew by and the conversation and exercises brought to the group a way of feeling what we were talking about in the room. The power of assumptions and bias. I hope we can grow this program as I believe all counselors, therapists, school personnel, case managers, courts and parents can find that those we are afraid of are this way because of the pain and invisibility they have had to endure. To be vulnerable after consistent trauma can only be seen as weakness. To harden oneself is an attempt at personal and collective survival. I hope this training allows for this to be understood.

Marianne Diaz,
Director of Outreach Services

Marianne recently held her GATE training at the center, and here are some comments that were sent in afterward:

Your training left me speechless, motivated and prepared to be able to utilize new skills for our youth, it gave me a whole new perspective in their life style and how to approach them in a more positive way. To not challenge them as everyone else is doing even when they create a lie, like you say play the roll with them. Gracias. I realize that it’s a different millennium, nothing like ours when we were growing up,          

Jesse Marin
Project Safe Way

You prepared an amazing workshop where all in attendance could relate and comprehend. You need to know that your presentation was awesome. I felt your compassion in every word and thought you spoke, which I feel is a necessary component to do the work you do so well.

Sheila Brittain

I just wanted to share with you my thoughts and feelings about the GATE Training last weekend. I have attended a lot of workshops throughout my training as a counselor. However, the GATE training was truly something special. I have never had eight hours fly by so quickly. You made us aware as counselors that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to providing counseling services for clients. You reminded me that each client is special and that making assumptions about clients who are in gangs, mandated or living a different life from me doesn’t give me the right to make assumptions or judgments. Marianne it was your ability to share so much of your personal experiences with honesty and compassion that made the GATE training really come alive and so unique. Thank you!

Brandi Bakewell,
MFT Intern

In training GATE participants to work with at-risk youth, Marianne combines her unique personal experience with her professional expertise. The result is a powerful educational experience that no textbook or lecture could hope to replicate. Marianne also has an innate ability to connect with individuals from all walks of life. I highly recommend this training.

Carlee

Marianne Diaz is Director of Outreach Services at the Southern California Counseling Center.

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Do you worry sometimes that your use of a substance – be it alcohol, cocaine or prescription pain meds – is getting out of hand?  Are other people always telling you that you’ve got to do something about it or else…?  Yet you are not sure that they are right, or that there is really a problem.

 Perhaps you have listened to the advice of others, and have gone to a 12 step meeting.  Does this mean that you are an alcoholic, and will be for the rest of your life?  That you have a disease, and that complete abstinence is you only hope?  If this makes sense to you, and you find by “working the program” your life is getting better, then that is wonderful.  AA works really well for some people, but there are plenty of others who leave feeling a failure, or find that some aspect or other of the approach is not right for them.

 There is an alternative approach called Harm Reduction.  Although it is still an unusual idea here is Southern California, it is seen increasingly as the way to go with substance abuse issues, both in Europe and Canada.

 Therapists who practice harm reduction with their clients look at all the options.  We explore the substance use in a curious and non-judgmental atmosphere.  There is no need for confrontation.  We look at all the ways your substance use helps you as well as harms you.  The overriding emphasis is on safety, both yours and that of others around you, and we look at ways you might continue substance use in a way that reduces harm.  Any positive change is welcomed.

 We then move on to what, if anything, you want to change, and how you want to do it.  Your final choices might indeed involve abstinence, and AA meetings,  but they will be your choices, and you get to decide what is right for you.

Hilary Henson, MFT

In addition to her private practice, Hilary Henson is a clinical supervisor at SCCC and she teaches graduate courses at Antioch University Los Angeles. She will be presenting a workshop on Harm Reduction to The SCCC Alumni Association on Friday, November 4th from 8:30 to 11:00 AM.  Contact Gordon Duvall (gduvall@sccc-la.org) for more information.

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Marsha Jacobs

I first met Marsha when she was the Clinical Director of SCCC and I was an intern.  I was somewhat intimidated by her for a number of reasons including: her powerful position (she could fire me!), her confidence (nothing seems to faze her!), her perfect looks (every hair is in place!), and her energy (endless!).  I did not have Marsha as a supervisor, so, in the beginning, she remained a more distant authority figure to me. 

I eventually found my way to the “Multicultural Committee”.  Marsha was a member of this committee and being a part of it changed my experience of her, of myself, and of my role as therapist and a member of the SCCC community.  Everyone who came to the Friday meetings embraced an agenda that was grounded in learning more about diversity, racism, and privilege.  Our meetings were often intense, exploratory, inspiring, and sometimes really hard.  Marsha participated on an equal footing with the other members, as we shared and struggled with the challenges of confronting our biases and privileges, our hurts and shame.  This process was intimidating at times and I was absolutely blown away by Marsha’s authenticity, her ability to show up and be transparent about what she was experiencing.  She was the best model and through her bravery she created safety. She inspired me to participate in this highly emotionally charged domain, be vulnerable, and ultimately have a profound learning experience.  

When I went on to pursue a doctorate, I trained at three other counseling sites.  Once licensed, my experience of Marsha and the SCCC community drew me back.  I then had the honor of co-supervising with Marsha for 5 years in the Family Training Program.  Marsha was my mentor, colleague and friend.  We lunched before our supervision group and this personal time with Marsha was also precious to me.  We talked about our group.  We talked about our families and our lives.  It was a gift for me to learn about supervision from such a skilled and insightful therapist and supervisor.  Marsha taught me so much, and from the beginning my participation, I was always encouraged and valued.  We developed into a team, and we felt that the occasional difference in our perspectives further enhanced the experience of group members.   

Then Marsha grew ill.  And again she taught me about being authentic as she spoke her truth about going through treatment.  She shared, and I later experienced, how her family rallied behind her with their love and support. She was so used to giving, and was now grateful to be receiving so much – even as she acknowledged that this was a challenge for her, for she loved to provide. 

Marsha means so much to me on so many levels.  I miss her physical presence and am aware that she resides in my heart and in so many cherished memories.  I send my love and healing thoughts to her beautiful family.   

Kim Cookson

Dr. Kim Cookson, SCCC Doctoral Training Director

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The Huffington Post ran this article by SCCC alumnus John Tsilimparis on the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-tsilimparis/anxiety-post-911_b_953980.html

John offers training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to the counselors at the Southern California Counseling Center and is the founder of the monthly Free CBT Consultation Clinic.  In addition to his private practice and teaching, John has written two books and was featured on A&E’s “Obsessed.”

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Marsha Jacobs

Remembering Marsha,

It has taken me a while to catch my breath, comfort my heart and to believe that my second mom is gone.  The strange thing is that my mother died of the same illness which took my second mom, Marsha. I couldn’t have designed a more different mom than Marsha from my actual biological mom. I was able to know my own mother only for 15 years and it turns out that I had the honor of knowing Marsha for 13.

What Marsha did for me as a human being can only be described as lifesaving.  I came to the Center from working at the County for 15 years and wanting a different reality. The County Probation Department which I was contracted for was funded by government dollars in the form of county, city, state and federal monies. The work was to negotiate peace amongst gangs and provide alternatives to violence.   I became the Deputy Director of an 8 million dollar well-intended project that was never given the respect it deserved by the powers that be. We risked our lives.

Meeting Marsha and applying for the Outreach position here was taking a risk for me. At the time, 13 years ago, it was 15 hours a week and I had decided I needed to bring in some money since my non-profit,  CleanSlate, had just been founded. Marsha could not have been more different than any person I had ever encountered in my life professionally or personally. She looked at me in a different way. I felt worried, of course, because I felt she could actually see me.

I had learned in a violent household that the “V” word was something to die fighting against. Vulnerability meant weakness and that was how I came into this place called the Center. I asked her on the last meeting I had with her at her home why she chose me.   She told me that my pain was obvious and my rough exterior didn’t hide the compassion inside. She knew my history, she asked and I told her in that interview (one of three) that ,yes, I was a gang member. She didn’t flinch. Yes, I have a violent record.  She didn’t stop looking at me as a human being.   Yes I have served time for attempted murder (gang related).   She nodded as if she understood why. 

When I got the call to join the Center I was stunned. When I walked in it was obvious I was on another planet, because the lives of the staff and the interns appeared to be very different from mine.  I had a Ram truck, wore Big Dog/Chicano Nation shirts and quit the Center every time I got angry, scared or challenged in my thinking. Marsha tolerated my outrage at the unequal distribution of wealth and supported my ideas about delivering services.  Why?  I’m not sure.

She listened to me even though I was intimidating. She hugged me even though I didn’t do it well. Marsha loved me even though it could be hard for her to know if I loved her back.  I loved her back. She escorted me into a new life.  My entire family owes her for a less critical stance a more genuine conversation and more peaceful existence. She and the other leaders of the Center at that time were about welcoming change even if it was scary. I was scared, they were scared and we both learned so much about one another and the cultures we represent and value. This Outreach Services Department is the Marsha Jacobs flame of acknowledging the truth about people’s lives. They can be harder than anyone could ever imagine and still we hope for something better for our kids, our community and our people.  Our People to me means the disenfranchised, oppressed, underserved and marginalized. Those are my people and our clients represent that every day. I miss you, Marsha. You were a part of my everyday life, my daily thoughts and I often wonder about how you would handle my everyday stressors.  I am handling them much better, my dear, thanks to you.

With love and respect from me and my family.

Marianne Diaz

Marianne Diaz, Director of Outreach Services, SCCC

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A GIFT OF MINDFULNESS

August 19th, 2011

By Clay Crosby, MFT, SCCC Assistant Clinical Director and Best Practice Parenting Instructor

Last Saturday I gave myself a gift.  My wife and children were away on vacation.  I had stayed home because of work and frankly I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  An email arrived in my inbox in the middle of the week announcing that it was “not too late” to register for a workshop called “Day of Mindfulness: Cultivating Self-Compassion” at the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA.  I’ve taken several classes at MARC and have benefited greatly from them.  Although I had created a long list of house projects to tackle on Saturday, after some consideration I decided that I would get more out of the workshop.  I could organize the junk drawer on Sunday.  The truth is I was tired and stressed and wanted to give myself the gifts of rest, peace and support.

The day was all I hoped for.  Diana Winston and one of her colleagues led us through 5 or 6 sitting meditations and two walking meditations.  In between meditations we had discussions and did exercises focused on developing self-compassion.  Diana is the Director of Mindfulness Education at MARC and the co-author, with Susan Smalley, of Fully Present: The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness.  She shared some of the research that indicates positive correlation between self-compassion and mental health and wellbeing.  She also differentiated between the concept of self-compassion and self-esteem.  Self-compassion, she explained, includes the three elements of self-kindness, mindfulness and an awareness of our shared humanity.

As the day progressed I experienced a sense of peace and emotional release.  I felt cleansed and restored.  For a few hours I had the luxury of staying in the present moment and giving myself a break from juggling the multiple layers of responsibility that I carry in my various roles of father, therapist, supervisor, administrator, husband, bill-payer, teacher, adult son, etc.  I felt a kinship with the 100 other people in the room as we explored the ways in which we judge and criticize ourselves and practiced techniques designed to help us increase our kindness towards ourselves. 

I also thought about the work we do in our Best Practice Parenting Class at SCCC.  Mindfulness is a major emphasis of the BPP curriculum.  At the end of the ten-week course most parents report that the weekly meditation is their favorite part of the experience.  Just as the workshop did for me, the meditation allows the parents in the class to lay down their burdens, tune into their breath and just be.  Many of them notice increased relaxation and feelings of peacefulness.  The most gratifying thing is that, after a few weeks, the parents invariably report that the meditation is affecting their home life and their interactions with their children.  We often hear stories of parents who are able to stay calmer when conflicts arise and find it much easier to step back and look at the situation through their child’s eyes before reacting.  By the final class, parents tell us that their partners, friends, family members and co-workers are noticing positive changes and those relationships are improving.  

This quote from the handout Diana Winston provided us describes the effects we witness with our class participants:

“ Mindfulness is the act of openly and actively observing your moment-to-moment experience with kindness. As we do this, we will begin to understand our bodies and minds better and not be so reactive in our daily life to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Mindfulness is not about feeling a particular state, or having a kind of experience. With mindfulness, we develop a quality of attention that can be present no matter what is happening. This will help us to have more peace, ease, and balance in our lives.”

One of the cornerstones of the Best Practice Parenting class is that the class members and the facilitators are on the journey together.  My time in meditation on Saturday helped me connect once again to the experiences of the parents in the class (that’s the shared humanity piece). It also gave me the chance to reflect on the immense gratitude I feel for the positive effects that my mindfulness practice has had on my relationship with my own children.

 

The next 10-week Best Practice Parenting Class begins September 8th at the Southern California Counseling Center.  The class addresses issues of child development, discipline, and management of parental stress and reactivity and includes introductory instruction in mindfulness meditation.  Our motto is “Tuned-in Parents, Thriving Children.”  Contact ccrosby@sccc-la.org to register.

 

To learn more about Mindful Awareness classes at UCLA’s MARC go to http://marc.ucla.edu/

 

 Clay Crosby, MFT is Assistant Clinical Director of The Southern California Counseling Center and he co-created the Center’s Best Practice Parenting Program with Carol Potter, MFT and Robert Mendelsohn, MFT.  Clay works with highly creative individuals and couples in his private practice in Beverly Hills.    In addition to his interest in the application of Mindful Awareness techniques to psychotherapy, he has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.  www.claycrosbymft.com

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